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Remember, we have NO ARCHEOLOGICAL or TEXTUAL DATA WHATSOEVER that supports the BELIEF of 'layers'. When the NT manuscripts appear in the digs, they are FULLY FORMED as they are today (read: "NO TRANSITIONAL FORMS"!). This MUST be understood. The one "HARD" discipline we have in this arena is Textual Criticism, which deals with archeological 'facts'--real, existing, manuscripts. All speculation about forms, and sources, and dislocations in the text, and layers are OUTSIDE this 'hard discipline'. The Alands, working in the field for 50+ years, point out this 'control element' quite forcefully:
Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.
1 Corinthians 15
12. Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13. But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised:
14. and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain.
15. Yea, we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised.
16. For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised:
Enough of the writings of the authors named in the foregoing list remains to form a library. Yet in this mass of Jewish and Pagan literature, according to Remsburg, "aside from two forged passages in the works of a Jewish author, and two disputed passages in the works of Roman writers, there is to be found no mention of Jesus Christ." Nor, do any of these authors make note of the Disciples or Apostles -- increasing the embarrassment from the silence of history concerning the foundation of Christianity.
Antiquities 20.9.1 But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.
Antiquities 18.3.3 Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.
From this satirist and playwright of the second century, we have two quotes from a play entitled "The Passing of Peregrinus." The hero of the tale, Peregrinus, was a Cynic philosopher who became a Christian, rose in prominence in the Christian community, then returned to Cynicism. Lucian's attack is not so much on Christianity, but on the person of Peregrinus, who took advantage of the Christians' simplicity and gullibility. [Alli.Luc, 99]
The first quotes tells of Peregrinus, who learned "the wondrous lore of the Christians," became one of their leaders and was revered as a god, lawgiver, and protector, "next after that other, to be sure, whom they (the Christians) still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult to the world." [Harm.Luc, 13]
The second quote, regarding these same Christians: "Then, too, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brothers...after they have thrown over and denied the gods of Greece and have done reverence to that crucifed sophist himself and live according to his laws."
What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that their Kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; He lived on in the teaching which He had given.
They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up.
But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.
Further, we may point out again, as Wilson has, that if there were any hint that Jesus was a mythical figure, we would expect that the Talmuds would aim some polemics in that fertile direction. As it is, there are no such statements; and it strains credulity to say that the authors of the Talmud would have simply taken Christians' word for Jesus' existence if evidence existed to the contrary (and it would have existed, had that truly been the case -- there would be "holes" in the historical record big enough to drive a Borg cube through).
The anger and distaste expressed in the Talmud for Christianity leads to a solid inference that any useful information against it would have been taken up as a weapon. Therefore, they may be taken as an independent and reliable witness for the mere fact of Jesus' existence, while not necessarily that for actions and sayings of Jesus. And of course, just because they are polemic, this does not automatically mean that they are not independent.